Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza dies of ‘cardiac arrest’ at 55

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, aged 55, has died after suffering a cardiac arrest, the government says.

He was admitted to hospital on Saturday after feeling unwell, his condition improved but on Monday he had a cardiac arrest and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, officials say.

Nkurunziza was due to leave office in August after a controversial 15-year term marked by claims of repression and human rights abuses.

These include “extrajudicial executions, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, extortion, beatings, and intimidation”, according to Human Rights Watch.

Political opponents have been targeted and journalists have been imprisoned.

Nkurunziza took office in 2005 under a power-sharing deal following a 12-year civil war which left 300,000 people dead.

His decision to run for a disputed third term in 2015 plunged the country into violence, leading to hundreds more deaths.

Facing allegations of widespread abuses, his government became the first country to leave the International Criminal Court in 2017.

Human Rights Watch says the police and ruling party are known to carry out ‘widespread human rights abuses’ including killings and arbitrary arrests.

According to an official profile, Nkurunziza was born in 1964 and lost his father during a wave of ethnic violence in the 1970s.

Mr Nkurunziza’s wife was rumoured to have tested positive for coronavirus – a disease Mr Nkurunziza had appeared to downplay, holding an election in the midst of the outbreak, and even expelling World Health Organization representatives from the country.

The government has announced seven days of national mourning.

 

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